Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Bret Blevins
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
It’s been a while since I read a comic written by Joe Keatinge — his Glory revamp with Sophie Campbell was great — but what really drew me to this comic was the artist. Bret Blevins was a mainstay of super-hero comics in the 1980s and 1990s, with work on such books as New Mutants, Strange Tales and Superman Adventures. In recent years, I believe he’s been working in animation, so seeing his name on a creator-owned title grabbed my attention. Blevins has always had a more unusual style, and he uses it to great effect here with this sci-fi epic. Stellar is a genuinely mature and challenging science-fiction story that will appeal to fans of European comics fare.
A mercenary known as Stellar trudges across a war-torn, alien landscape, a prisoner in tow, as she sets her sights on the outstanding bounty on his head. But when she learns the ongoing conflicts throughout the cosmos have rendered her mission pointless, she instead tries to put the prisoner to better use, and in the process, she reveals herself to be much more than a bounty hunter. She’s a cosmic warrior who’s chosen to protect rather than destroy, but her past is quite literally coming back to tear her new life apart.
Blevins clear draws some inspiration here from the hyper-detailed and bizarre worlds of sci-fi Euro-comics; the vibe here, in the art and the script, is undeniable. But I found Blevins’s linework to be more much intricate and detailed here than I remembered it from past projects. I was reminded of the styles of Jim Starlin and Paul Gulacy. I also appreciated the muted color palette here, as it reinforces the sullen tone of the story. Of course, brighter and even glowing neon colors convey the more chaotic elements and surreal energies in the story as well.
I also absolutely enjoyed the design of the prisoner and the contrast between his thoroughly inhuman look and the blue-collar, colloquial tone of his dialogue. This insectoid and/or crustacean character is how the reader comes to enter the impossible world in which the story is, how the audience comes to understand what’s going on. It’s a great device, and Keatinge and Blevins collaborate perfectly when it comes to his portrayal.
When it’s all said and done, what we have here is a rather familiar story, especially in science-fiction. A reluctant hero, trying to put a dark past behind her, only to be forced to face off against threats who were once her allies or teammates. Keatinge’s plot dresses key characters up in some of the trappings of the super-hero genre as well, given the powers and matching, skin-tight uniforms that come into the mix.
What sets this comic apart, in addition to Blevins’s striking artwork, is the achronological approach to the plotting. That’s a difficult trick to pull off with any regularity, but it’s also a method that draws me to the works of Christopher Priest, for example. What’s interesting here is that the flashbacks and forwards actually appear to be literally happening here. The script indicates the cosmic energies wielded by the title character and her former colleagues free them from the linear constraints of time, and that suggests potential for something different, demanding the audience’s careful attention for a more complex and engaging read. 7/10